Man-Eaters of Kumaon, The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, and The Temple Tiger and More Man-Eaters of Kumaon, the three classic collections of Corbett's hunting stories, which vividly bring to life the drama and beauty of the jungle and its wildlife are here brought together in a single volume for the first time.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 606 pages, numerous line illustrations
- Publisher: OUP India
- Publication Date: 01/08/1991
- Category: Hunting or shooting animals & game
- ISBN: 9780195627626
- Hardback from £8.89
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Review by anirban
Never before had I felt more truth in the saying 'truth is stranger than fiction' as I felt after completing this volume containing three of Corbett's collection of his adventures that he categorized as 1. The Man-eaters of Kumaoun 2. The Temple Tiger & More Man-eaters of Kumaon 3. The Man-eating Leopard of RudraprayagThe 1st & 2nd collections deal with his hunts of the man-eaters of the Kumaon region, at the foothills of the Himalayas, in the then state of Uttar Pradesh (it is part of Uttarakhand now). Automatically, Nature plays a significant role in the narratives. The numerous variety of flora and fauna has rightly found its place in these adventure in the wilderness and the writer in Jim Corbett skillfully uses these to shed a vivid glimpse on the beauty of the jungles. Though the descriptions are exciting to read but you really need to concentrate on the lines else you may miss the true flavour of the adventures. The hunter had also paid tribute to several unsung heroes, comprising mainly of the inhabitants, farmers and the women, of the surrounding villages, whose deeds have left a deep impact on his mind. Bala Singh, Madho Singh and Ibbotson were to name a few.He started the 1st collection with a critical explanation of how a normal tiger or a similar carnivore develops man-eating habits and has gone straight to the chilling exploits starting with his hunt of the Champawat man-eating tiger. After this he narrates the events following his promise to a district conference at February 1929 to kill the man-eating trio labeled as the Kanda man-eater of Garhwal district, the Chowgarh man-eater of Naini Tal district and the Mohan man-eater of the Almora district that terrorized their respective zones. The reader will be held in awe while reading the face to face encounter with the Chowgarh tigress which the famous huntsman could kill only after a patient and highly risky manoeuvre with his rifle held in one hand while keeping his eyes locked with that of the man-eater from a precarious position that lasted for hours. Corbett stalked and ultimately killed the Mohan man-eater while it was taking a nap and the readers will understand his pang of remorse at this apparently unsportsmanlike strike but at the same time it should be remembered that his action gave relief to the villagers of the district where normal life of the inhabitants had previously been terrorized by this unruly creature. The unselfish soul of the hunter is again revealed as we find his thoughts, after killing the Kanda man-eater, meander off to the brave and bereaved father of one of the man-eater's previous victims who risked his life searching for his son in the dark forest at night fully aware of the man-eater looming at large. That he cared for the poor villagers is revealed many times in his writings and several of their brave acts had been brought to light by this noble hunter. Infact his feelings were not limited to humans only as we find him regretting the killing of the Pipal Pani tiger due to his misapprehension of the former being turned to a man-eater due to some stray bullet wounds.All the anecdotes are priceless and fascinating accounts of Corbett’s exploits in the foothills of the Himalayas, be it the bagging of the renowned trophy known as the Bachelor of Powalgarh or in his quest for the ferocious man-eater like the Thak tigress that drove him to the point of depression and which he could only bring down risking his life with minutes left before the daylight disappeared. This last episode happened to take place during the final phase of his hunting career.Strewn in between these chapters of fierce encounters, are some lighter narratives like his angling exploits and the intense episodes during his close encounter with a game leopard with Robin, his faithful pet for several years that he narrates in a cheerful tone. There is also a fascinating precis of his 4.5 months of photo shooting episode in 1938 during which period he took various snaps of a pack of tigers in the early morning hours. During this, the reader will appreciate the simple but highly effective method that he employed to dampen the shutter's sound. This he did by creating several dwarf waterfalls out of a nearby stream whose gurgles took care of the camera sounds.In the narratives, he had considered each and every element of the forests including supernaturals and superstitions which he either hints at or describes in full and which can be found in his account during the Champawat chase, the ghost echo that he heard at the Thak village and his repeated unsuccessful attempts while chasing the Temple tiger. The Temple tiger was chased while he was on the look out of the man-eating leopard at Panar, and here he shares his views at some very curious incidents that foiled his each attempt at the tiger’s life. Infact he had been advised earlier that this particular tiger can never be killed and his repeated failures that concluded with a humorous episode questions the reader’s non-superstitious beliefs. This chase also brings to light the rational being in this noble hunter and his love of the place, Dabidhura. Also at places in the narratives, he sometimes strays off to give delightful accounts of several avian chases, a noteworthy being a chase triggerred by an osprey. Several of his accounts touches on animal psychology and some of the misapprehensions of the readers will surely be cleared by these.The 2nd part also contains his encounters with the man-eating tigress of Muktesar, that he found to be wounded by tens of porcupine quills and one of his earliest hunts (along with Champawat tiger) of the Panar leopard. Also he relates his hunt of the Chuka man-eater and while doing so, recounts and pays tribute to a brave Mother, village boys and several villagers of a search party. He also recalls a dramatic moment where he witnessed tiger cubs being trained to the jungle laws by their mother who in all probability turned out to be the Thak man-eater in later years. While recounting the chase for the Talla Des tigress, converted to a man-eater possibly due to the painful 2" - 6" porcupine quills, the author recommends that to appreciate fully his keen knowledge of the jungle sounds and signs that plays an important part during the hunt, Jungle Lore should be read first. But, I can assure you that it's none the less enjoyable without the background that Jungle Lore probably furnishes. Here we find the hunter, in a severely handicapped stage due to some previous accidents which hampered his hearing during this critical adventure. Only relying on the sense of sight, did he undertake to carry this fearful task that lasted for 5 days and his tracking was done, in this case, entirely by foot. While recounting this incredible achievment, he speaks of some wonderfully simple but elegant form of jungle signs and gives the reader some lessons on the jungle ways. Also, while acknowledging his own superstitions and that of the locals, he narrates an inexplicable incident of lights below Puranagiri Holy Shrine that had some religious explanations. He finishes off the 2nd part sharing his nostalgic feelings associated with the incredible Talla Des man-eater chase.The 3rd part begins with a route map to the Rudraprayag confluence and Corbett devotes a chapter on the nature of man-eating leopards and how it differs from tigers. He also emphasized the terror the man-eater created with his silent stalkings that recorded an official census of 125 kills during his 8 years of operation starting from 1918. Corbett, who always respected the Indians and their religion, clearly understood the threat that not only affected the surrounding villages but also the millions of pilgrims who undertake the strenuous journey via this route to Kedarnath every year. Thus he regrets the three instances when superstitions and some unfortunate incidents prevented the leopard to be killed at a much earlier date. The cunningness of the leopard and series of misfortunes prevented Corbett to kill the man-eater in his 1st try and was subjected to harsh remakrs from the press though the hillfolks and the inhabitants of the nearby villages never lost confidence in him. So he returned in 1926 and could kill the carnivore following several sleepless nights on a treetop machaan. He finishes off the volume with his nostalgic feelings and his vision of a future India glorified and strengthened by the sons of the soils. It is to be kept in mind that the year was before Independence, but an Irish by birth, this wonderful person loved India, her nature and her people from his heart.His humble attitude in the manner of ascribing part of his glory to luck needs to be mentioned here as this reflects the greatness of this distinguished and possibly the best hunter of all times.Oxford India Press has paid a wonderful tribute by publishing this excellent volume adorned with some wonderful sketches that reveals vividly the forests of the northern India and their elements but some typographic error slightly marrs the unless otherwise lucid narratives.